This post comes courtesy the talented data team at The 10 and 3. Check them out for more interesting info on Canadian data.
For a country with only 35 million residents, Canada certainly produces its fair share of ultra-wealthy families.
In fact, nearly 90 are worth over $1 Billion.
Names like Thomson, Saputo, Coutu, Sobey, Stronach, and Bombardier are familiar to many. But most of these wealthy Canadians are confined to a handful of the most populous provinces and to a narrow set of industries, like media, grocery, oil, and finance.
But what about, say, Prince Edward Island — how do ambitious businesspeople generate wealth in the pocket-sized province known primarily for fishing and tourism? Or the Yukon Territory, known most for its mining, but also a relative powerhouse in manufacturing and hydroelectricity?
Well, we decided to investigate where the wealth lies in each region of Canada.
What follows is a list of the richest Canadians (individual or family) residing in each of the country’s provinces and territories. In some cases, where a single determination is difficult to make (as much of the wealth is locked up in private enterprises), we present a collection of the wealthiest residents. In Nunavut, where most of the funding arrives from federal sources and non-resident companies own most large assets, a selection was not made.
Vancouver investor Jim Pattison may very well have the most motley collection of assets among the rarefied set of Canada’s billionaires. His aptly named Jim Pattison Group (which as of 2013 was the largest privately held company in Canada) oversees subsidiaries both weird and wonderful: novelty publications and museums (the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! franchise), illuminated sign businesses (Pattison Sign Group), car dealerships (all under the friendly Jim Pattison brand), bodyshops, packaging groups (Genpak), a giant coal export terminal, and a network of radio stations stretching from BC to Manitoba.
Canadian sports fans know Daryl Katz as the billionaire owner of the bottom-dwelling Edmonton Oilers, who haven’t come close to making the playoffs since Katz took over the reins of the team in 2008. Though Oilers fans have resolved themselves to a team in perpetual rebuilding mode, the success of Katz’s non-hockey businesses have propelled him to be the 13th richest Canadian, and the wealthiest in Alberta. His empire of pharmacies, which include chains like Rexall and Pharma Plus, number over 1800 and stretch over most of Canada and some of the United States.
Not even a decade ago, the most talked-about person from Saskatchewan was Calvin Ayre, founder of online gambling mecca Bodog. He appeared on the cover of Forbes’ 2006 billionaires issue, and was among Star Magazine’s “Most Eligible Billionaire Bachelors” in 2007. But since then, the playboy with the jetsetting lifestyle has gone into a downward spiral, and so too has his wealth. Indicted in 2012 by US prosecutors for running an illegal sports betting business, Ayre is still on the run, and maintains a comfortable spot on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Most Wanted List.
James Armstrong Richardson is known for his role in aviation with the family business, having founded Western Canadian Airways, which for a time in the late 1920s was the second largest airline in the entire British Empire. Son George and then grandson Hartley (current CEO) led the company’s expansion through the latter half of the 20th century into oil and gas exploration, financial services and property management, all the while maintaining the massive private company in the family’s hands.
No surprise here. The Thomson family, majority owners of the media conglomerate Thomson Reuters, are the richest family in Canada by a huge margin, with a wealth estimated at over $30B. Current patriarch David, grandson of Roy (namesake of Toronto’s grand Roy Thomson Hall, to which the family donated significant rebuilding funds), is a relative spring chicken at just 57 years old.
The Saputo cheese empire had its humble beginnings in Sicily, where young Lino — the future billionaire founder and chairman of Canadian behemoth Saputo, Inc. — helped deliver his father Giuseppe’s specialty mozzarella to local clients. After immigrating to Montreal in the 1950s and officially starting their eponymous cheese business, the family saw the burgeoning pizza craze as a can’t-miss opportunity, and soon cornered the explosive mozzarella market. Through a series of acquisitions beginning in the 1990s, the company has consolidated itself as the world’s eighth largest dairy producer. They now oversee iconic Canadian brands like Dairyland and Vachon (maker of the Jos. Louis), Wisconsin names like Black Creek and Great Midwest, and even Australia’s oldest dairy producer Warrnambool Cheese and Buttery Factory.
For a long time, the Irving family managed to fly under the radar while gradually becoming one of the most powerful — and wealthiest — families in all of North America. They’re in oil. Shipbuilding. Media. Pulp and paper. You name it. They’re the largest landowner in the US state of Maine, and the fifth largest private landowner in all of the United States. But most Canadians, and Americans, have hardly heard of them.
What began with J.W. Sobey as a door-to-door meat delivery business in 1907 in the town of Stellarton, Nova Scotia has exploded into the second biggest grocery company in the entire country. After first dominating Atlantic Canada with the Sobeys chain, the family business marched west through Canada beginning in the 1980s, swallowing up more and more stores as it went. Their grocery empire now includes Foodland, FreshCo (Price Chopper), Thrifty Foods, IGA, and more recently, Safeway Canada.
Prince Edward Island
n 1980, a bold, 25-year old Islander named Danny Murphy raised enough money from family and his own savings to purchase PEI’s first two Tim Horton’s franchises. Since then, the Murphys have taken over the province’s hospitality industry, with an obvious focus on doughnuts, bagels and coffee. Danny himself owns no fewer than 20 Tim Hortons restaurants (including all locations in PEI), 10 Wendy’s, numerous hotels and a Leon’s Furniture store; brothers Kevin, D’Arcy, Stephen and Joe own another 45 restaurants between them throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario (including over 30 Tim Hortons).
By the early 2000s, Williams had already earned the nickname “Danny Millions,” for his successful law career and $225M sale of Cable Atlantic (of which he was the primary shareholder). Premier between 2003 and 2010, Williams’ term is remembered for tangles with Prime Minister Stephen Harper over offshore oil royalties (Williams won that fight). These days, Williams splits his time between CEO duties for the St. John’s IceCaps, and developing the sprawling Galway Development in St. John’s, which some analysts now value at over $5B (he’s said to have bought the land for a just a few million in the 1990s).
The Gruben family, based in Tuktoyaktuk and founders of construction giant E. Gruben Transport (EGT), are known as one of the largest contracting and logistical companies in the Arctic. Northwind Industries, owned by the Wainman family and based in Inuvialuit, recently joined with EGT to win a massive $229M contract to build the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk all-weather highway. To protect the permafrost, construction of the highway is limited to winter months, which in fairness is basically most of the year.
Rolf Hougen, patriarch of the sprawling Hougen family of the Yukon and head of the Hougen Group of Companies, is perhaps the most admired businessperson in the Territory, recognized as someone who cared deeply about the community he worked in (and made plenty of money in). At one time, Hougen stores were the largest retailers in all of the Yukon, before the nationals (like Canadian Tire) and multinationals (like Walmart) arrived. Now, much of the company’s wealth resides in the extensive real estate holdings throughout Whitehorse and the Territory.
In Nunavut (pop. 32000), where most of the funding for infrastructure and development arrives from federal sources and non-resident companies own most large assets, a selection was not made.
For a more in-depth breakdown on each of the people and families selected, please visit the original post on The 10 and 3.